Pennsylvania: Playing on a sponsor`s exemption from good friend Tiger Woods, struggling Indian golfer Arjun Atwal made the most of the opportunity and grabbed a share of the lead with a fine four-under 66 in the opening round of the AT&T National.
Atwal, playing on a Major Medical Extension this season, has eight events to earn just over USD 586,000. So far, he has earned just over USD 305,000 with this event and the RBC Canadian Open to go.
Atwal was not even in the field for the tournament before his long-time practice partner Woods stepped in to lend a helping hand. The two were practicing in Isleworth when Atwal told Woods about his plans to play the John Deere Classic and Canadian Open.
Woods asked why he was not playing here and when Atwal explained the reasons, the world number one American ensured that the Indian got one of the last sponsor`s exemptions for the event.
And Atwal lived upto his friend`s faith by reeling off seven birdies against three bogeys in the opening round, which included a hat-trick of birdies in his front nine.
He was joined by Americans Joe Ogilvie and Nick Watney and Australian Jason Day in a four-way tie for the lead.
Woods, meanwhile lay tied 81st with a disappointing 73.
The Orlando-based Atwal, who has been battling form and fitness issues for quite sometime, laughed off comparisons with his celebrated practice partner.
"As far as comparing myself with him, it`s strange, because we practice and play every day, so I`ve stopped doing that," Atwal said.
"Initially, when I used to practice and play with him, I used to compare myself. But now, it`s just, whatever. He`salways helped me if I have any questions about short game or whatever it is. He`s always been there," he added.
Atwal, who has two top-25 finishes in six events this year, said he has turned to yoga to get over his fitness problems.
"I don`t work out anymore. I do yoga now," he said.